Chinese Bishop abducted, escapes over illicit ordination

A Chinese Bishop recognised by the Holy See, who was abducted by government officials in an attempt to force him to take part in the illicit ordination of a new bishop, has escaped custody.

According to AsiaNews, Bishop Li Liangui of Cangzhou, who was "abducted" by China's Religious Affairs Bureau along with Bishop Peter Feng Xinmao of Hengshui, has escaped custody and is now in hiding until the ritual is performed.

The prelates were taken away by car on the pretext of seeing some property owned by the Church but instead they found themselves under guard.

However, in a moment of distraction, Bishop Li was able to elude officials from the Religious Affairs Bureau and escape, AsiaNews claims.

Despite the incident, China's Foreign Ministry insists that it is sincere in exploring dialogue with the Vatican.

China hopes the Vatican could see it in a positive perspective, allowing for the history of bilateral relations between China and the Vatican and the current conditions of China's Catholic Church, Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Jiang Yu said yesterday, according to a Xinhua news agency report.

Jiang said the principles of the Chinese government on its relations with the Vatican are consistent, namely the Vatican should sever its relations with the Taiwan authorities and not interfere in China's internal affairs under the pretext of religion.

"We are sincere in improving relations with the Vatican and would explore ways to do that based on the above two principles," she said.

The Foreign Ministry statement followed the illicit ordination of Fr Wang Renlei, 36, as coadjutor bishop of Xuzhou diocese at the Sacred Heart of Jesus Cathedral yesterday.

Fr John Dai Zhenbao, parish priest at the cathedral in Xuzhou city, Jiangsu province, told UCA News that Bishop Joseph Zhao Fengchang of Yanggu was the ordaining prelate together with two other bishops.

Ye Xiaowen, director of the State Administration for Religious Affairs, and Anthony Liu Bainian, Vice-Chairman of the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association, attended the ceremony. Fr Dai said Ye did not make any speech during or after the ordination, for which about 1,000 Catholics were present.

Mr Liu Bainian told UCA News that the China Church did not contact the Vatican for permission because there is no proper channel for doing so.

However, he said the China Church has asked the Chinese government to pass the message to the Vatican that Fr Wang had been elected for the bishop's post and would be ordained.

Responding to reported concerns that the new bishop had not applied for papal approval and time was not given for the Holy See to undertake an investigation of the candidate, Liu said the new bishop had informed the Holy See about his election and ordination through a third party. Furthermore, the China Church has done an investigation on the candidate, who was elected unanimously to the position of bishop, Liu continued.

"The Vatican should have trust in the China Church - that it would not approve a candidate that does not love the Church and the country," he said.

Ordination "astounding": Hong Kong Cardinal

A Patriotic Association official also denied an AsiaNews report that some bishops were forced to attend the ordination. He told UCA News that Bishop Wang had invited the bishops who attended the ceremony.

However, Hong Kong Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun told AsiaNews that the ordination was "indecent and astounding".

"It is hard to understand how there can be people who obstinately work for destruction. What happened this time is even more serious than what happened ... at the end of April" which is "punishable with sanctions fixed in Church law," Cardinal Zen said.

The prelate told AsiaNews that "it would seem that the ordination were planned disobeying the orders of the government. Now we cannot expect Beijing to slam the ceremony; at the same time we cannot put all the blame on the small local Church locale, led by a 94-year-old bishop".

Vatican should understand ordination of bishops by Chinese church, says FM spokeswoman (People's Daily, 30/11/06)
Xuzhou Diocese Goes Ahead With 'Illicit' Ordination" (UCA News, 30/11/06)
Episcopal ordination in Xuzhou is "indecent and astounding", says Card Zen (AsiaNews, 30/11/06)
China ordains new Catholic bishop (BBC News, 30/11/06)
Bishop escapes from abductors to avoid participating in an ordination not allowed by the Holy See (AsiaNews, 30/11/06)
Bishops loyal to the Pope detained, forced to take part in unlawful ordination (AsiaNews, 30/11/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association (Wikipedia)
Catholic Church in China (Catholic-Hierarchy)

Vatican dismay over new China bishop ordination blow (CathNews, 28/11/06)
Hong Kong Cardinal says China persecutes both official and underground churches (CathNews, 3/10/06)
Released Chinese bishop seeks reconciliation (CathNews, 13/9/06)
Chinese bishop released after 10 years in prison (CathNews, 28/8/06)
Holy See sends envoys to Beijing for secret talks (CathNews, 19/6/06)
China's first Catholic non-profit approved but arrests continue (CathNews, 4/8/06)
Pope declares diplomatic war with China (CathNews, 5/5/06)
Pope names four mainland Chinese bishops to October synod (CathNews, 9/9/05)
Rome condemns arrest of Chinese bishops/murder of Korean hostage (CathNews, 23/6/04)
Chinese bishop freed from detention after foreign visitors depart (CathNews, 17/3/04)

1 Dec 2006